Beautiful new book examines Harry Lange’s designs for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

A new book by Sir Christopher Frayling presents the largely unpublished archive of art director Harry Lange’s designs, concepts, roughs and photographs for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The result is a veritable feast for design and film geeks.

Beautifully presented, Frayling’s book offers an exhaustive examination of the making of 2001. He gives a fascinating insight into Kubrick’s process: the director has long been known for his obsessive attention to detail and fans will enjoy extracts from his letters (at times belligerent) as well as in-depth information about the ideas, themes and inspirations behind the classic movie. Included too is the last extensive interview with Frederick Ordway, the NASA scientist who was a scientific consultant on 2001 and worked hand-in-hand with Lange.

What Kubrick most desired for 2001 was someone who understood science and engineering and could offer up a realistic (as well as spellbinding) vision of the future. He found this in Lange, who previously led the ‘future projects’ department at NASA and was introduced to Kubrick by Arthur C. Clarke, who co-wrote the screenplay for 2001 (it is based on his short story The Sentinel). Lange was instrumental in defining the look of the movie, and the experience was life-changing for him too: afterwards he left NASA and continued to work as a designer for films including Moonraker, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi.

In The 2001 File, Frayling places Lange’s work within the context of the time and also looks at how his science-fiction designs have influenced real designs of the present – even five decades on, the designs for 2001 appear remarkably modern. His text is accompanied by hundreds of images from Lange’s archive for 2001, which will provide a total joy to fans of the film, and design in general. Included are rejected designs, concepts, as well as near finished works. There are also photographs from the set of the film. Shown here is a selection of images from the book to whet your appetite.

Top: Pod Bay interior set (final version) with two full-sized pods; Above: the Hilton at Space Station 5. Photo: The Kobal Collection/MGM
Top: Pod Bay interior set (final version) with two full-sized pods; Above: the Hilton at Space Station 5. Photo: The Kobal Collection/MGM
Discovery, early concept
Discovery, early concept
Early space suit concepts
Early space suit concepts
Actor Keir Dullea in space suit in scene from motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Photo by Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Actor Keir Dullea in space suit in scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Photo by Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Discovery early concepts
Discovery early concepts
Discovery: towards the final design
Discovery: towards the final design
Discovery (final version): Photo: The Kobal Collection/MGM
Discovery (final version): Photo: The Kobal Collection/MGM
Monolith early concepts
Monolith early concepts
Full-sized lunar trench set being constructed, when the monolith was still a 'pyramid' shape
Full-sized lunar trench set being constructed, when the monolith was still a ‘pyramid’ shape
Discovery: Flight deck instrumentation
Discovery: Flight deck instrumentation
Discovery: interior
Discovery: interior
Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Photo: Jean-Philippe Charbonnier/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Photo: Jean-Philippe Charbonnier/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
2001 A Space Odyssey poster. All images, unless otherwise captioned: courtesy of Harry Lange Archive/The Boynett Collection
2001: A Space Odyssey poster. All images, unless otherwise captioned: courtesy of Harry Lange Archive/The Boynett Collection
Cover of The 2001 File
Cover of The 2001 File

The 2001 File: Harry Lange and the Design of the Landmark Science Fiction Film is published by Reel Art Press, £45. reelartpress.com. Sir Christopher Frayling will be signing copies of the book at the RAP Pop Up Shop on December 16 from 6-8pm at 284 Portobello Road, London, W10 5TE

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